Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

 

Substitute Bill No. 5417

    February Session, 2010

 

*_____HB05417JUD___042710____*

AN ACT CONCERNING AN OPEN SPACE REGISTRY, THE IDENTIFICATION OF OPEN SPACE FOR ACQUISITION AND THE RECORDING OF CERTAIN OPEN SPACE RESTRICTIONS.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2010) (a) The Commissioners of Environmental Protection and Agriculture, in collaboration with the chief elected official of each municipality, shall develop a central open space and farmland preservation registry that contains information concerning real property preserved as open space and agricultural land in this state. Such registry may contain information on property identified for preservation as open space or agricultural land. The commissioners shall determine the scope of information contained in such registry for each property. In developing such registry, the commissioners may consult with the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board established pursuant to section 22-26ll of the general statutes. The commissioners may seek any funds available from federal, state or other sources for the development and maintenance of such registry. Such registry shall be made available on-line to each municipality and state agency for the purpose of monitoring, coordinating and implementing open space, farmland preservation and responsible growth goals. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall analyze whether such preserved open space and agricultural lands are effective in protecting all species listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern, as established in Connecticut's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy.

(b) The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall create and maintain a map of all preserved open space and farmland contained in the registry created pursuant to subsection (a) of this section.

(c) The Commissioner of Environmental Protection shall identify lands in this state that need to be acquired in order to protect the habitats of species of greatest conservation need, as identified in Connecticut's Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy. Said commissioner shall establish priorities for acquisition of such lands.

Sec. 2. Section 7-131e of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective from passage):

(a) Grant award decisions under the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d or under the Charter Oak open space grant program established under section 7-131t shall be made by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection at least semiannually. All complete and eligible grant applications shall be acted upon by the commissioner as soon as practicable. A single project may receive a grant in more than one grant cycle, subject to future availability of funds and subject to the limitations set forth in this section and sections 23-78, 12-498 and 7-131d. Up to five per cent of the grant funds may be used for administrative expenses including, but not limited to: (1) Contractors to assist the Department of Environmental Protection in the review and evaluation of grant proposals and baseline data collection for conservation easements; (2) appraisals or appraisal reviews; and (3) preparation of legal and other documents. Administrative expenses may not be used for staff salaries. Not later than September 1, 1998, for the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d, and not later than September 1, 2000, for the Charter Oak open space grant program account established under section 7-131t, the commissioner shall develop written guidelines and a ranking system for consistency and equity in the distribution of grant awards under the protected open space and watershed land acquisition grant program established under section 7-131d or under the Charter Oak open space grant program account established under section 7-131t based on the criteria listed in subsections (b) and (c) of section 7-131d. Consistent with such criteria, additional consideration shall be given to: (A) Protection of lands adjacent to and complementary to adjacent protected open space land or class I or class II water company lands; (B) equitable geographic distribution of the grants; (C) proximity of a property to urban areas with growth and development pressures or to areas with open space deficiencies and underserved populations; (D) protection of land particularly vulnerable to development incompatible with its natural resource values including the protection of a public water supply source; (E) consistency with the state's plan of conservation and development; (F) multiple protection elements, such as water quality and supply protection, scenic preservation and farmland preservation; (G) the extent to which the presence of already constructed buildings or other manmade improvements diminish or overshadow the natural resource value of a proposed acquisition, or its value relative to its cost; and (H) preservation of forest lands and bodies of water which naturally absorb significant amounts of carbon dioxide.

(b) There is established a Natural Heritage, Open Space and Watershed Land Acquisition Review Board to assist and advise the commissioner in carrying out the provisions of sections 7-131d to 7-131g, inclusive, [and] sections 23-73 to 23-79, inclusive, and section 1 of this act. Upon establishment of the review board and selection of a chairman under this section, the review board (1) shall provide comments on selection criteria, policies and procedures; (2) shall promote public participation; (3) shall provide guidance and conduct review of strategies for land protection, including strategies under section 23-8; (4) shall review and evaluate grant award policies and procedures; (5) shall make recommendations to the commissioner concerning the commissioner's duty to establish acquisition priorities pursuant to subsection (c) of section 1 of this act; and [(5)] (6) may provide comments on any application for funds not later than forty-five days after such application is submitted to the chairman. Upon establishment of the board, the commissioner shall take such comments into consideration in making any decisions regarding such grants.

(c) The review board shall consist of twenty-one members as follows: (1) The chairpersons and ranking members of the bonding subcommittee of the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to finance, revenue and bonding; (2) one member of the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to the environment, appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, and one member of the joint standing committee of the General Assembly having cognizance of matters relating to planning and development, appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate, each of whom shall be ex-officio members of the board; (3) the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, or his designee; (4) a representative of the business community and a person experienced in issues relating to access to public facilities by persons with disabilities, appointed by the Governor; (5) one representative from an investor-owned water utility, appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; (6) one representative from a municipal water utility, appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives; (7) one representative from a regional water utility, appointed by the minority leader of the Senate; (8) one representative who is a realtor or attorney with a minimum of five years experience in real estate transfers, appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives; one representative with a minimum of five years experience in the construction industry or land development, appointed by the president pro tempore of the Senate; (9) two representatives of interest groups primarily concerned with the conservation of river watershed regions, appointed one each by the majority leaders of the House of Representatives and the Senate; (10) three representatives from nonprofit organizations primarily concerned with environmental protection or natural resource conservation with a minimum of five years experience in land conservation and acquisition, appointed one each by the Governor, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the president pro tempore of the Senate; and (11) one chief elected official of a town with a population less than twenty thousand and one chief elected official of a town with a population greater than twenty thousand, appointed by the Governor. The members, other than the members described in subdivisions (1), (2) and (3) of this subsection, shall serve terms of three years provided the terms of the members described in subdivisions (4) to (8), inclusive, of this subsection who are appointed in the year after July 1, 1998, shall expire on October 1, 1999, and further provided the terms of the members described in subdivisions (9) to (11), inclusive, of this subsection shall expire on October 1, 2000. The board shall elect a chairman from among its members and shall make such election on or before October 1, 1998. Members of the board shall serve until reappointed or replaced.

(d) The board shall meet not less than once per calendar quarter.

[(d)] (e) Annually, on or before February fifteenth, the board shall submit a report regarding grant awards made in the previous calendar year and any findings and recommendations regarding the open space and watershed land acquisition program, [and] the recreation and natural heritage trust program established under section 23-73 and the commissioner's duty to establish acquisition priorities pursuant to subsection (c) of section 1 of this section to the General Assembly.

[(e)] (f) There is established an open space and watershed land acquisition account within the General Fund which shall consist of any funds required or allowed by law to be deposited into the account including, but not limited to, gifts or donations received for the purposes of section 7-131d. Investment earnings credited to the assets of the account shall become part of the assets of the account. Any balance remaining in the account at the end of any fiscal year shall be carried forward in the account for the fiscal year next succeeding. Payments from the account shall be made upon authorization by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection. Neither the proceeds of any general obligation bonds of the state nor the investment earnings of any such proceeds shall be deposited in the account. The Commissioner of Environmental Protection may use funds in the account for purposes of section 7-131d.

Sec. 3. (NEW) (Effective from passage) (a) Whenever any municipality, by vote of its legislative body or pursuant to a municipal ordinance or referendum, purchases or otherwise acquires any real property and such vote, ordinance or referendum requires that such municipality preserve such real property for the public trust, including, but not limited to, preservation as open space, parks or recreational areas, such municipality, simultaneous with the recording of the deed or instrument that effectuates such purchase or acquisition, shall record in the land records of such municipality the following information, as applicable: (1) The date of the referendum that authorized such purchase or acquisition; (2) the municipal ordinance that authorized such purchase or acquisition; (3) the nature of the municipality's interest in such property; (4) the specific use, limitation or restriction for such property; (5) the name of the municipality that acquired such real property; (6) the name of the immediate former owner of such property; (7) the address of such property; (8) the municipal tax assessor's map location and parcel identification number for such property; and (9) the legal description for such property.

(b) The failure of a municipality to record the information described in subsection (a) of this section shall not be deemed evidence of the lack of any such restriction or requirement concerning such property and shall not affect any requirement to comply with any such restriction or requirement.

(c) In the event that a municipality fails to comply with a requirement of a vote of its legislative body, an ordinance or referendum, as described in subsection (a) of this section, the Attorney General may seek enforcement of any such restriction or requirement concerning the subject property, including, but not limited to, the bringing of an action in the Superior Court to enforce such restriction or requirement.

(d) Nothing in this section shall be construed to amend or alter any municipality's rights or obligations concerning open space or parks.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2010

New section

Sec. 2

from passage

7-131e

Sec. 3

from passage

New section

ENV

Joint Favorable Subst.

 

APP

Joint Favorable

 

JUD

Joint Favorable